Book Review |Terrorism Post 9/11: An Indian Perspective by P.R. Chari and Suba Chandran

 By Aakanshi Bansal
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Overview

“For years we in India have been alerting others to the fact that terrorism is a scourge for all of humanity, that what happens in Mumbai one day is bound to happen elsewhere tomorrow, that the poison that propels mercenaries and terrorists to kill and maim in Jammu and Kashmir will impel the same sort to blow up people elsewhere.” These words said by Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee in his address to the nation post 9/11 constitute the very premise of this book Terrorism Post 9/11: An Indian Perspective.

The 9/11 attack on America introduced terrorism to the world in a new light. Though terrorism itself was not a new phenomenon it mainly had been limited to the Middle East, Europe, Latin America, and South Asia in the past. But this attack differed as it was unforeseen in post-World War 2 period that such large-scale destruction could be perpetrated on the soil of the world superpower. The Indian government had already been making efforts to combat the groups responsible for this horrific incident as it had already suffered at their hands on multiple occasions. But the United States’ alliance with Pakistan in the War on Terror launched post-September 11 attacks by President George W. Bush was a setback to the Indian hope of American collaboration and cooperation to weed out terrorist camps run and abetted by Pakistan.

The editors of the book include the well-known proponent of nuclear disarmament in India who was once employed by the Indian Administrative Service, P.R. Chari and D. Suba Chandran, Director of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) whose primary areas of research include Pakistan’s internal security, Afghanistan and Jammu and Kashmir offering a collection of perspectives and questions to be answered post the attacks. It has been divided into seven parts, each with differing views and discussions on the various dimensions of terrorism. Information on current regional and international conventions on terrorism is also provided in the appendices.

Part 1- General

The first part of the book deals with general information and analysis of the events that occurred post 9/11. It raises important questions like that of Saudi involvement. Saudi Arabia was not held responsible even though they had alleged links with the responsible organizations and 15 out of 19 perpetrators were Saudi citizens. It also highlights the lack of unity between the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries on counter-terrorism responses. Even in 2022, almost 2 decades after this book was written, it continues to be an important reason for the failure of the SAARC dialogue.

India has time and again tried to raise the problem of cross-border terrorism with the nations, especially after incidents like the Uri attack of 2016. The authors also talk about how tourism is being targeted by these organizations through attacks like 9/11 in America and the looming threat in Egypt. We saw an example of this even years later with the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. It provides an insight into how Pakistan has adopted Islamic terrorism for its gains and its involvement in setting up Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Part 2- The World Trade Center attacks and After

The 9/11 attacks exposed American vulnerability and led to various changes in America’s counter-terrorism policy as can be seen with the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security. This part talks about how every country had its narrow interest and return price for its assistance given to the US in its War on Terror, especially Pakistan, which got pulled out of debt as well as prevented itself from being a US target. However, in the process, it lost its influence in the governance of Afghanistan. The US on the other hand required the Islamic credentials of Pakistan to tell the Muslims around the world that the war was against terror and not Islam.

The authors talk about the problems of intelligence sharing between countries and between various agencies within a country for combatting terrorism. Terrorism is perceived differently by each country and hence the nations focused on their national interest in the US-led coalition. India was worried that the US will focus on Laden and not address the real issue of Islamic Terrorism and that training camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir will not be dealt with which turned out to be true.

Part 3- Religion, Fundamentalism, and Terror

This part talks about how terrorist organizations have twisted the concept of Jehad in comparison to that laid down in the Quran, they have interpreted Jihad as the end and not the means to suit their interests and are using fundamentalism as a weapon. It also talks about two fundamentalist organizations that were present in India at the time and their effects and involvement in communal violence and disharmony.

Part 4- Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and Terrorism

This part focuses on the use and availability of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist organizations and individuals. The author talks about the speculated possession of WMD by Laden and facilities in Kandahar for the production of chemical, biological and radiological weapons. It talks about the limitations of the use of chemical and biological weapons by terrorists despite their easy availability and production.

Part 5- Suicide Terrorism

In this part, the author explores the psychological and sociological factors associated with suicide terrorism, especially in Kashmir and suggestions are laid down for the Indian government to combat the same. It also talks about the elite suicide squad of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Black Tigers.

Part 6 and 7: Tools of terror and Profile of Militant Groups in India

These two parts although brief contain valuable information about the tools of terror as well as the militant groups that were prevalent in South Asia at that time. It talks about the use of Steganography by Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations along with the use of Research Department Explosive (RDX) and Improvised Explosive device (IED) in Kashmir and North-East by terrorist organizations.

The next part provides a profiling of the following terrorist organizations: National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSC-IM), and Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), Hizbul Mujahideen, and LTTE. Out of whom NDFB and LTTE are inactive organizations while the other two continue to perpetrate terror, especially in Indian regions of Northeast and Kashmir.

Conclusion

The war against terror has entered a new phase after the American invasion of Iraq, making the observations about American strategies and military options in this volume rather out of date. The events of 9/11 undoubtedly fundamentally altered the world’s security environment, but it is debatable whether they also raised or merely made the threat presented by international terrorist organizations more visible. Despite the defeat and dispersion of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the threat posed by Jihadi terrorism still looms large. The world is progressively becoming aware of Pakistan’s role in providing a haven for al-Qaeda leaders.

As far as India is concerned, the situation has not grown worse and is not going to get any better. The aftermath in the subcontinent caused severe concerns in India, a victim of jihadi terrorism, as the overthrow of despotic but secular regimes in West Asia allowed previously suppressed radical Islamist organizations to flourish. In Pakistan or Afghanistan, the terrorists have not been vanquished and neither have their organizations been dismantled. In addition to failing to “abolish terrorist sanctuaries and havens” in Pakistan, the US also failed to persuade an uncooperative Pakistan to take action against the Haqqani network, which currently controls Afghanistan’s interior ministry.

The book has some inconsistencies and leaves the reader with some unclarities, the part on suicide bombers creates an unclear distinction between Fidayeens and suicide terrorists even though the two are different as Fidayeens are willing to sacrifice their lives to accomplish their goals but not essentially through suicide. Also, an analysis of events post 9/11 and the US war on terror make it clear that the US-led coalition was a failure and highlights President Bush’s contradictory stand as he said the USA will not make a distinction between perpetrators and harbourers but continued to revive alliance with Pakistan.

While the book provides an insight into the workings of terrorist organizations, it does not elaborate upon the methods to prevent or curb terrorism. It also leaves some looming questions about the contextual nature of terrorism and underestimates the capacity of terrorists to use WMD, especially in the hands of noncooperative states like Pakistan, North Korea, Iraq, and Iran.

Nevertheless, the book offers an insight into the perspectives of various scholars and defense personnel on terrorism and India. Scholars and students can use this book to gather a basic understanding of the immediate changes in the international response to terrorism post the 9/11 events. Its simple language and noncomplex terminologies also make it an easy read, increasing its usefulness in the field of academia. The narrative of the book is such that it can function as a light reading from a non-academic perspective as well, thus expanding its reader base.